What is Emerging? VANESSA ANDREOTTI & BAYO AKOMOLAFE – Deep Dive Interview 6

What is Emerging? VANESSA ANDREOTTI & BAYO AKOMOLAFE – Deep Dive Interview 6


Our civilization
is not going well A lot of losses
are already in course You do keep pointing about what’s
wrong with the current system It means we have
to rethink everything -But why?
-Why? That ground comes
from life itself Open up our curiosity It’s a shift on which individuals
have the right to imagine Looking at the individual
as multidimensional Our nature is to flourish, our nature is to blossom,
to be as great as we can. I think the idea is that
our ways of being and knowing have created the problems
we’re facing, are not going to be
the ones that will help us shapeshifting into
a different reality. Figuring out other ways
of not just knowing, but being, is a pretty important thing. It’s not just a cognitive
exercise, an effective exercise, a neurobiological exercise, that requires us
to access exiled capacities. Our capacities have been exiled
from the kinds of feedback loops that we are… Strapped in,
but also deriving pleasure from. I think, if it felt so bad, we would have gotten out of it. The problem is
that it feels good. Exactly. How is it that these things
that attract us also are the things we are
generating pleasure from, or being relieved from,
getting rewards out of. So, if we can’t get it
to the point where we surrender to that which most
rewards us in the current system. There is no incentive,
actually, to step out into something
different and scary. Like Vanessa said,
we need to shapeshift, I guess. Ideas are not cognitive things,
thoughts are not cognitive. They’re ecological things. Topographical shifts
need to happen for new thoughts to emerge. It’s all about getting our words,
the syntax together. All we need to do
is put it together. But it doesn’t work like that. We’re being humiliated
by climate change, and the world at large,
that’s teaching us that we’re part of
what we try to understand. And that’s the idea, that’s the invitation for us
to stay with the trouble, like Donna Haraway’d say, to stay with the idea
that it may not make sense, there are many more meanings
and senses beyond just meaning. Or things being eloquent
and being articulable. The imperative becomes
what kind of work do we do
to lose ourselves? What’s worth doing
when there’s no hope, or when we can go beyond
just making sense of things in some linear fashion. Can you tell us more about the
99 senses idea you explained? It was a community of women
in Uluru in Australia, as part of a project called
Through Other Eyes with my team, They said the problems
we’re having are related to numbed senses
that we have. So, again, exiled capacities, whereby we believe we
only have five senses, but we have actually 99,
meaning unlimited. But making sense is
one of these senses. Making sense came to overcode
all the other senses, to a point, where
we can only sense what makes sense in meaning. This obsession with meaning
and meaning and conviction, as the ground for change, for progress,
or human evolution, is grounded
in a specific culture and maybe it has
given us the gifts but also created
a lot of problems, both in terms of
it’s restrictive capacity, especially in terms
of relationships. How we relate to the world, but also in terms
of how we sense the separation between
humans and nature. In the idea of 99 senses,
we are nature, there’s no man and nature,
it’s all one thing, it’s a bigger metabolism,
not a static thing, we’re part of it,
it’s part of us. And if it’s sick,
if it’s getting stuck, or having a big constipation,
we are all sick. It’s being reflected
in each one of us. The idea of unnumbing,
or reactivating senses that have been numbed
by our obsession with meaning, words and with the idea
that convictions change behavior, means understanding that
the problems we have are not informational problems. They’re problems
of a habit of being. And to change habits of being,
we need to understand intellectual economies,
affective economies and relational economies, so that we can lose
the satisfaction we have with what
these economies give us. And, in that sense,
disinvest in it, in order to be able to open up our curiosity even, and the possibility of
wanting something else. Or imagining.
Imagining the unimaginable. Why do we get… Why did we get addicted to this
sense specifically, in your idea? I think partly, it’s… it’s an exercise
in trying to control and predict things,
thinking that by articulating, by seing language as something
that indexes the world, we can actually progress
into a teleology, and get somewhere,
from A to B. Security, yeah. In modernity, the ontological
security we have is one that is grounded
on certainties. But then this “being”
gets reduced to “knowing”. And then life gets
reduced to meaning. If we are reducing this
to these things, obviously, there are things, we’re in excess of these things, but we don’t notice
even what we are that is more than knowing
and meaning. In that sense, it’s our inability
or our fear of dealing with unknowability,
not the unknown. Unknown is not yet known,
but there are things that are unknowable,
but present and tangible. For the communities I work with,
this is where we relate because the bigger metabolism
is unknowable and it interpolates us
in unknowable ways. What they say, for example, is that it’s not appropriate
to talk about reconnection, because we’ve never
been disconnected. What has been disconnected
is our sense of connection. How to reactivate the sense that
we’ve never been disconnected? If we’ve never been disconnected,
that my responsibility for everything, especially for dealing with
the de-constipation of things is ever present and demanding
that I pay attention. Not that I do a specific
predefined thing, but that I’m present and ready to work into the
work that I can do, that is needed and demanding
of me at that point. That’s why it’s different
from saying this is the ethical thing to do. The ethical thing to do is not
an intellectual choice, or a decision,
it’s something that emanates, and that will compel you
to go against your self-interest, or do things that contradict
your self-image. Or that, sometimes
asks you to step out of it, and allow other things
to happen, things that are out
of your control and may be scary but if you’re touching that thing
and trusting that thing, you won’t have a choice,
you’ve got to do it. When you started saying,
I started to think that even before language,
we were addicted to meaning. Doesn’t that also
make as human? As one of the senses,
meaning is a good thing, it’s not a bad thing but we can
see it as what describes reality, or we can see it as an entity
that plays with us. So, it’s not that meaning,
itself, is bad or good, it’s our relationship to meaning
and what we expect meaning to do, that is very
historically specific. The example we use
in one of the projects is of a Somali grandmother,
who was asked, for example, “Grandma, is there one God
or many Gods?” And she says of course
it’s just one God, the God that lives in heaven,
the Father who lives in heaven, which shows an influence
from Christianity, but then the grandchild asks, “But what about
the other Gods?” And she says,
“Yes, there are those as well”. So, there’s one and many. For her, language
doesn’t index, it’s something that… There’s reality
that doesn’t limit, there’s reality that’s
unknowable, and there’re stories
we tell about it. And it’s not something
that she’s attached to. Because the truth’s not
about coherence. It’s not about
keeping things together, like you say, about indexing. It’s a confidence that, if we put
it together, we’d arrive, there’s a formula. But truth is… Taken away from this
humanist anchoring, truth is not the modernist cartesian thing
that we can hold and clean like a property. It’s something different,
it’s how we move in the world. I know an elder who tells me
that, when he was young, he’d ask where
do we come from, just like your story, And a bush,
not a bush. Another elder man would point
to a hole in the ground, outside his compound,
and say, “That’s where we came from,
that’s where humanity came from, all of us came from that hole”. Science might look at that,
and say that’s rubbish, that’s just romantic stuff. But that’s exactly
what that place, the human, non-human assemblage
has made possible. It’s meaningful, it’s true,
and it goes beyond meaning. How can we live truth
beyond truth? How do we sidestep the
convenience of modern book boxes, that put us into
those categories. A useful metaphor
we’ve been using is the bricks
and threads metaphor. This historical time,
where we derive a lot of security from
brick layering, putting blocks of words,
the meaning of categories, one by side of each other,
on top of each other, with the desire to build
a tower, a skyscraper, or a wall sometimes,
organizing everything. This is a sensibility,
it’s part of the whole and there’re gifts
that come with it. But when it becomes
the only sensibility, then we are losing
and numbing other senses. There’s another sense
of different communities, that are about threads
and weaving. Weaving’s not putting
one thing on top of the other, it’s about being super flexible
creating things that hold, but there will be a unwoving,
and rewoving again, that have…
they don’t have a teleology. Intertwined with each other, a more complex way
of being together than one upon
or side by side. There’s a word for that
in Greek, “kairos”. Kairos means
opening, possibility. The idea from the weavers
in ancient Greece. -Kairos means time, right?
-Kairos. It’s the opportune time,
the right moment, this sensibility is when
the arrow strikes the bullseye. The very moment it strikes it
is Kairos, or where, with the weavers,
with the warp and the woof. When the lateral thread goes
through the longitudinal thread and pierces it. The moment it pierces it, that
transversal moment is Kairos. Kairos is the beautiful
contemplation that we are interlaced with the world
around us, we’re entwined with it,
and it’s not categorization, which modernity is committed to,
or post modernity as well. It’s about noticing that we are
entangled with the other, defeats the whole idea
of separability. We become fragile aspects
of a world that is ultimately unknowable, since there’s a coming together
and a falling apart at the same time. Nothingness and
everythingness. You were saying that,
a while ago, even quantum physics is an
open up space for us to notice that the void… In classical physics, it’s
everything versus the void, and the void
is empty, nothing. But now quantum physics
is saying it’s full of life. Virtual particles are there,
it’s full of life and experiments and that’s very disturbing,
because what it does to time, for instance,
is the past is not past, the past is yet to come. Nothingness
is full of abundance. There’s a co-constitutive
process that takes place, that materializes humans
with the non-human, which is just
a fancy way of saying… The separability
we thought was intact, that connected us,
or distances us from the world, as Vanessa was saying, was never the case, we’ve always
been part of the world. Being human we can only speak
from the position we’re in. But the idea of shapeshifting,
at least for me, is not to recentralize
human processes, is to notice the ecology,
the constellation of bodies that we are, and have
always been in touch with. For me, the idea is to move out of our confident epistemologies,
our confident ways of knowing in our heads and perform,
build new webs of alliances and intimacy with
the world around us, to partner with the earth,
partner with soil, and dirt and dying. And to not be
so committed to our skills. In our practices of confirming
our theories, to notice there’s something
outside of it. I think maybe science isn’t
doing a good job in arranging that. Performative arts,
I’ve always loved the arts, the way they break us down
and compost us. Or indigenous realities
and practices. Hallucinogenic, entheogenic. I wouldn’t use hallucinogenic,
it has a lot of baggage, but entheogenic practices,
how they bring us to fall apart, bring us to places
where we fall apart. I’m so committed to the idea
of falling apart, at the risk of making that
a new brand. It is, or feels like, the ethics
of our post-postmodern times. One of the cartographies
that we use is the idea of a layered self, at least
four layers we talk about. There’s me,
there’s me in this body that has a specific temporality
and biodynamic. And then there’s me “and” you,
me and other bodies. And, again, in modernity, or coming from
enlightenment thinking that’s about it, the two layers
that we operate from, society an individual. But we talked about
a third layer being me “in” you, but not just you here,
the “you” as a wider metabolism, consisting of this planet,
more planets, more universes and things like that,
with a different temporality, when the “I” doesn’t really live
only in one organic form, and it’s part of several
organic forms and shapeshifts all the time. And there’s another layer,
where there’s neither me nor you, it’s an “us” and an “I”,
beyond time and beyond form. It’s not beyond in the temporal
sense, it’s just something that happens in parallel
to the other, it’s always already here. And that maybe is
the unknowability. The third and fourth layers are
scary because they’re unknowable, we don’t have language
to talk about that. We’ve been talking about
thick language and thin language. We’re used to
very thick language, that has a brick intensity,
density and weight. But, in the thread sensibility,
we can see that language is much more flexible
and plays with us. Aesthetic experiences,
experiences that take us to the unknowable and to
a place of the void, that is everything, open up cracks in the bricks. And, through the cracks,
is that the air comes in, light comes in, life comes in. The art can work like that,
when not instrumentalized, for the bricks,
for confirming, affirming, validating story. We call it, in the project,
“sausage-ization”. If it doesn’t become a sausage,
that is used for consumption. That just appeases
our desires to consume. If we can work
with artistic spaces, where this process
of “sausage-ization” is not a colonial force
in that space, I agree that a lot can be
nurtured in terms of the cracks, in terms of what’s coming up. Unfortunately, it’s difficult… for funded artistic forms to be able to operate
in that way, because the expectations
placed upon art at this point by many financial
agencies and bodies, commited to financial objectives
change things for the arts. On the other hand,
there’re cracks even in that. What is possible is beyond
what is expected. There are adjacent possibilities
everywhere, I think. The truth never stays faithful
to the master long enough. Eventually it’ll break apart. Listenning about
thin language… The Celtic spirituality speaks
about thin places, maybe cracks in the world,
where things are, where the divine presses
so closely in the mundane, that we cannot divide
them, any longer. I think in a sense,
whether it’s art, performed art, sponsored art, whether it’s art
in Chevron or UNESCO, sometimes the cracks do appear. Spontaneously appear in places. We don’t know how to track
how they appear. This does bring us to a place
where we feel a need to recommit ourselves to the ordinary,
like the ordinary around us. How could clowning
be a response to climate change? Or how could mothering
or cooking be? In the usual scheme of things
that might be. That doesn’t add anything at all,
that’s cosmically insignificant. To cook, how does that
respond to Bolsonaro? How is that a response to Trump,
or fascism or nationalism? But, in losing our commitments to the threads of
cartesian distance, the idea that only when it’s
articulated, indexed and tested empirically
and prototyped it’s likely to make a dent
in the world. If we lose our
commitment to that, we notice everything
is re-worlding the world, even the ordinary, the simple’s
re-worlding the world. This interview right now
is remaking the universe. My activism, for instance, is
singing to my daughter at night. It’s important to tell her
how much I love her, by carrying her, no matter
how big she’s getting, she’s five years old. And singing to her,
working with her, taking walks with her by night
and pointing to the stars and saying,
“Those are your ancestors.” They’re listenning,
they’re always close, remember that
they’re always close. That’s activism
and that’s shapeshifting. It may not appear with me,
it may not have consequences that I can detect with me
right now, but our work is intergenerational. Even death opens us up
to new possibilities. And then,
just leave it at that. It’s beautiful.

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